Senior Spotlight

This is home…

The Reston Recorder chose Shirley Abbey as September’s Senior Spotlight.

 Shirley is an extremely active senior at the age of 88, born May 12, 1931. “I attribute by good health to keeping active  – always walking,” she said. Shirley has a 2001 Intrepid, with only 88,000 km as she walks everywhere she needs to be in Reston.

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 Shirley was born in Arcola, SK and was brought up in Reston; when she was 6 months old, her father opened the Red & White store here in town. She is the third eldest of four siblings – Mary who is still living, Ted passed away October 23, 2008 and a younger sister Anna May (went by Randy) who passed away a couple of years ago. Her father had a family from a previous marriage with half siblings  - Leigh (Chicago), Nelson (Brandon) and John who finished school in Reston and worked for their dad until his sudden death of a stroke. Shirley’s parents were Will and May Abbey. “I probably was the closest with Randy, but a good buddy with Ted.”

 Shirley has one son Keryn (goes by Ed) and his wife Karen, who lives in Cranbrook, BC and run a restaurant and bar called “The Bull River Inn”. Keryn has two children Bailey and Logan, who live in England and Bailey has 2 daughters, Lauren and Elicie, making Shirley a proud great-grandmother.

 Shirley likes to think of herself as a “Roamer”. “I think the highlight of my career days was the summer I worked at Jasper Park Lodge. We had great fun! I can remember hitchhiking with friends I met at the Lodge that were from universities from all over Canada. We went to bars and drank Shandies (a restricted drink that was allowed for young people at that time). My best buddy, who I am still friends with, and I hitchhiked from Jasper to Calgary to the Stampede and were picked up by two guys in a convertible – that was an adventure. The two young men were available to drive us back to Jasper after a fun time in Calgary. Our luck was running high!” 

  In her ‘real’ working days, she says, “I got my Manitoba Teaching certificate and taught for 5 years in Winnipeg. I then moved on to Calgary, where I worked at varying jobs with Imperial Oil, Chevron, and Mobil Oils, before and after Keryn was born.” After Keryn’s birth, she finally worked as an agent for Unemployment Insurance, making decisions on claims and defending those decisions when and if they were appealed. One had to be a bit of a ‘mini – lawyer’ as it applied to the U.I. Act. She enjoyed that job!

 Shirley decided to retire back in Reston.  She no longer had the comradeshipof co-workers, and Keryn was living in England at the time. “I was happy to return to Reston in 1991, where I knew I had old friends from school and it wasn’t far from where my sister Randy lived in Neepawa.”  Here, she soon found things to keep her busy. She reinstated her membership with the United Church, where she has remained faithful, with some lapses. She remembers singing in the junior and senior choirs with her mother and sisters. She delivered meals from the Lodge for Seniors Helping Hands for many years, and directed their exercise group until Keri got an assistant. She served as co-ordinator between the RM of Pipestone and the Virden Arts Council and wrote the Reston “Social” column for The Reston Recorder.

 “I curled and golfed for many years, although not well, but enjoyable,” said Shirley. “I love to walk to the park in town, sit on the swings and reminisce of days when us kids would play on the slide and swings while our parents enjoyed the bowling greens that were once available.”

 Shirley has extensively travelled to England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. She has been to France several times, one being at the time of the 200th anniversary of the conclusion of the French Revolution; to Germany, Belgium and Holland, Austria, Spain, the Czech Republic, really enjoying her time in Prague. She has also been through Hungary, Romania, Greece and its islands, The Holy Land (Israel), Turkey, Australia, Mexico, south, east and west in both Canada and the U.S.A., having cruised up the West Coast of Canada to Alaska. Other cruises have occurred in Europe on the Rhine and the Danube rivers and in the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

 Some of the highlights of her travels have been standing in the shadows of Stonehenge, looking down into the pit of the blown out eruption of Mt. Haleakala in Maui, visiting the Museum of the Holocaust in Jerusalem (awesome, in a dark way), the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, demolished by the Mount Vesuvius,  volcanoeruption centuries ago and seeing the encased bodies in the lava as well as streets and buildings which have now been uncovered; the Alhambra Palace in S. Spain with centuries of history since the Moors of the East moved into Western Europe; the smooth black and white marble checkered floors of Westminster Abbey and the glassy smooth pillars of the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco.

 She remembers joking with a friend in Calgary who was bragging about having a lake in N. Canada named after him. Her response was: “That’s nothing, I have a huge cathedral in London, Eng. named after me – ‘Westminster Abbey’.” – It brought the house down.

Shirley says in conclusion, although there are still enticing trips (a cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow and a trip down the Nile through the Valley of the Kings), that she would love to experience, but are not likely to happen as travel afar has become so technical and at her age she would need a solid companion by her side – not so easily found as before.

 She says, “I don’t think I’ve missed out on anything, that I have attempted, and I don’t believe I would’ve changed anything I’ve done. I’m comfortably settled here and my dear son phones me every week to keep in touch. He is my greatest gift and I love him dearly, but despite his efforts to convince me to move to Cranbrook, I know in my heart  - ‘My Home’ is in Reston.”


© Reston Recorder